When asked if I would write the Nebraska perspective for Off Tackle Empire, I started thinking about all the things I knew about the B1G. Unfortunately, somewhere between, "Ohio State wins a lot," and "Indiana doesn't," I realized that most of my current view of the B1G has been built on two things (full disclosure, I'm learning the conference on the fly... bear with me):
1) These schools care more about the Rose Bowl than the BCS trophy
2) These schools have an inordinate amount of co tri-champions
While neither of these things is particularly bad, and I'm sure over time most of Husker Nation will probably assimilate into a similar frame of mind, I find myself pondering the reactions of the rest of the B1G fanbases to the thing that changes both ideas: The B1G Championship Game.
When I logged into facebook this morning, I saw the B1G announcement that the Championship tickets go on sale this Saturday. Nodding in approval, I clicked on the link and proceeded to figure out the logistics of going to Indianapolis in December. This is a very normal part of my late summer football fix, but I realized this is all very new to the rest of the conference. To this point, B1G fans have been forced to sit idly as the SEC, Big XII, and ACC beat each other up in early December. Quite frankly, that hasn't been such a bad situation so far, but it lacks some serious drama. The casual fan understands the idea of one champion, not three separated by tie-breakers. This should help the credibility of the conference as a whole, or at least that's Delany and Co's thought (not to mention $$$).
But, why should B1G fans care about this silly game? In my opinion, it's because it's more fun to care. Almost every B1G site has reported on the Cleveland Plain Dealer article (here if you haven't) that lays out the beat writer's view of who will be good this year. This is a time-honored media-day tradition that was almost destroyed by the powers that be. Still, even the fact that a newspaper went out of their way to figure out who will be part of this inaugural game gives off the aura of its importance. On some threads, I saw fans already angry that their team wasn't picked for a division title. Trust me, this is a big deal. How do I know? Well, Nebraska has dealt with this before... 15 years ago.
Back at the beginning of the Big XII, the conference decided a championship game was a great idea (Big 8 be damned of course). Nebraska fans were sold the line, "It adds to the excitement," and told, "MORE FOOTBALL!!!" I could get behind that, and so could the rest of the fanbase. The first title game introduced us to our soon-to-be-best-friend Texas. Let me start by saying I'm not a huge Texas hater outside the fact that their school might bring down football as we know it AND that their state changed history books because they felt like it, but Austin seems cool enough. I will never forget tuning in and thinking, "There is no way we ever lose to this four-loss Texas team. This is OUR conference and we just saved them." Then the play that would represent Neb-Tex for the next 15 years happened. Texas needed to run clock late and the Blackshirts had them on the ropes. It was fourth and inches and we excelled at fourth and inches. We stack the middle and all of a sudden they run this little pass stunt thingy that works and the reality of losing our chance at FSU for the National Championship sinks in. All in all, that title game is what stood between us and the chance at another national title, and boy did that suck.
Nebraska won only two Big XII Championship games, and the argument could be made that us Husker fans should hate being part of Championship Games, especially after the last two years losing by one and three respectively. Interestingly enough, most of us aren't, and I cannot wait to play in our first B1G Championship Game, whenever that may be. The reason? Because the game in and of itself is great. Everything from preseason picks by the media, to arguing on threads, to the ridiculous scenario modeling (If we win out and everyone else in the division loses each week, WE'RE IN!), is fantastic. The pageantry, destination driven fandom, and conference clout doesn't hurt either.
Fifteen years ago, Big 8 fans were introduced to the SWC rudely and as a byproduct, the Championship Game. In the first four years of the conference championship tradition, Texas and aTm represented the south. Lots of my friends hated having our Big 8 traditions slaughtered much like many B1G fans will hate their traditions slaughtered. Regardless, we all get sucked up into Championship Games. The drama, the importance of a game with everything on the line, and often a rematch scenario is unlike anything else. In fifteen years, we'll probably have super-conferences and the idea of not having a championship game will seem foreign. Until then, enjoy media days, speculation, whining, and hopefully great football. Thanks for letting me write from Nebraska. I can't wait to be a part of the B1G community... I have a lot to learn, though, I'm sure.